By Tony DeGol
Julie Crusciel and other members of the Prince Gallitzin Deanery Pastoral Council are grateful for the spiritual blessings available to local Catholics.
“We are so grateful that we have access to the sacraments,” said Crusciel, a member of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Loretto. “Without our priests, we don’t have the Eucharist, we don’t have funeral Masses, we don’t have marriages and baptisms. We want them to know how much we appreciate them as people of God and how much they mean to us.”
Since there is perhaps no better way to show appreciation to someone than through food and fellowship, the council invited all of the pastors in the Prince Gallitzin Deanery to a lovely social and dinner earlier this summer at Amici’s in Ebensburg, thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Columbus.
“Having this dinner and having the opportunity to converse, get to know each other, and collaborate on areas of ministry in which we can support them is really what tonight was about,” Crusciel mentioned after the gathering.
The eight county Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is configured in five geographic areas known as deaneries:
- Altoona Deanery (Blair County)
- Johnstown Deanery (City of Johnstown and Conemaugh, St. Michael, and Windber)
- Northern Deanery (Centre, Clinton, and Huntingdon Counties)
- Prince Gallitzin Deanery (Central and Northern Cambria County)
- Southern Deanery (Bedford, Fulton, and Somerset Counties)
Besides parishes, deaneries include Catholic elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, nursing homes, and corrections facilities.
Each deanery is led by a priest who is appointed by the Bishop and has title of Dean.
Bishop Mark’s vision for the Deanery Pastoral Councils is clergy, religious, and laity engaging in a profound diocesan-wide discussion that involves talking and listening.
“This is a chance to start a conversation – a real heartfelt and meaningful conversation – about all the pastoral dimensions in our parishes and throughout the diocese,” Bishop Mark stated in early 2020. “What I envision is an opportunity for parishes to be in conversation with each other on a local level. This will include best practices; things that are working for the pastoral good in a parish that might be shared with other parishes. It will include discussion about things that are not working; and some deeper conversation about how they might be improved or discontinued altogether. These conversations could lead to discover opportunities for parishes within a deanery to collaborate in pastoral activities, especially when it comes to evangelization.”
Although the pandemic hampered a public launch of the Deanery Pastoral Councils in the spring of 2020, the groups eventually began engaging regularly. Before too long, the councils were realizing the vision of listening, talking, and collaborating.
“The Deanery Pastoral Councils are not created to create more processes or programs, but to actually have a continued dialogue between laity and their pastors for the good of the greater region rather than just a parish,” explained Dr. Russ Miller, a member of Saint Augustine Parish in Dysart and member of the Prince Gallitzin Deanery Pastoral Council. “It’s remarkable what people bring to the table. I refer to it as group wisdom. You have the wisdom of the group to discuss and relate what they’ve experienced in their parish. To share that and discuss it comes with remarkable solutions to some of the problems.”
Crusciel echoed Miller’s enthusiasm for the diverse individuals who are offering their time and talent on the council.
“It’s a fabulous group of people, really, I believe, inspired by the Holy Spirit,” she said. “There’s a great deal of hope and excitement in working together to find ways to support the priests, the parishes, and really help evangelize everyone within our deanery and the diocese, as well.”
During the Prince Gallitzin Deanery Pastoral Council social and dinner, members reaffirmed their commitment to their role on the council, and they expressed continued support for clergy and optimism for the future of the Church.
“We have a vibrant faith in these mountains,” Miller commented. “People are faithful to their church, they are passionate about their faith, and you really discover that in a group like this.”
[Photo: Prince Gallitzin Deanery Pastoral Council members and pastors posed for a photo during a dinner and social during which the council thanked priests and reaffirmed their commitment to conversation and collaboration.]